The Biggest Resume Killer? Ignoring Lessons from News Writing

May 1, 2016

Journalists refer to the “lead” as the first few sentences that quickly tell the reader what the story is about. The phrase “never bury the lead” is one that Journalism students here from year one – as they know that doing so is a one-way ticket to a reader losing interest and quitting reading.


A powerful lead, however, allows a reader scanning a front page to get a clear idea of what the story is about, and “hooks” them continue reading further.


When it comes to resume and LinkedIn reading, there are three areas where leads are commonly buried. Transforming them is key to facilitating a skim read that gives the reader a sense of what your story is about, and entices them to return for a second, deeper look.


BRANDING PARAGRAPH


Located below your contact information on a resume or below the headline in a LinkedIn profile, all too often I’ve seen this section skipped altogether, or filled with lots of adjectives and generic sentences that could describe yourself as well as your competition.


Avoid burying your lead by utilizing this section to inform the reader how you are ideally suited for a role. How?


1) refer to job qualifications and include phrasing that aligns with the requirements listed and


2) weave in details that are unique to you.


Here’s an example:


BURIED LEAD:


Accomplished and effective Global Technology Leader with over 15 years of experience


LEAD THAT HOOKS THE READER:


Leads $ 10M large-scale global technology programs from concept to delivery that make enterprise plans for growth a reality.


EXPERIENCE SECTION


I’ve seen countless resumes and LinkedIn profiles of rock star professionals who begin each job experience with an overview. The bullet that generally follows includes a lackluster achievement or a series of responsibilities.


Do a 180 with this formula and avoid burying the lead. In other words, lead with the achievement, ideally one of your proudest, and allow the reader to immediately see something powerful accomplished in each role.


BURIED LEAD:


Led team of over 25 employees and 70 contractors (onshore across two facilities and offshore) to deliver on several strategic initiatives related to our Finance capabilities. $ 10M budget.


LEAD THAT HOOKS THE READER:


Reduced build times 25% by spearheading first data management strategy with $ 65M projected benefits. Led 95-Member On/Offshore team across two facilities; $ 10M budget management.


JOB DESCRIPTION


Burying the lead when explaining what happened in each job means placing the most powerful part of each achievement at the end of the sentence.


Front-loading (aka placing the most impactful phrasing at the beginning) persuades the reader to read the entire bullet or, if they are in a major rush, ensure the sure the most critical part of the bullet got read before moving on.


BURIED LEAD:


Designed processes to move data through High Performance Grid Computing Infrastructure to reduce run times by over 35%.


LEAD THAT HOOKS THE READER:


Reduced run times >35% by designing processes that moved data through High Performance Grid Computing Infrastructure.


LESSONS FROM JOURNALISM


Take a page from the curriculum of Journalism 101 and NEVER bury a lead.


Applying these techniques offers you your best shot at hooking your reader from the onset, help them to quickly get the gist of your career story, and wow them throughout with impactful achievements.

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